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John Barber was a fishmonger in London’s Billingsgate market whose brief racing career included a single Grand Prix start.
Racing career and Argentinian adventure
He started competing in 1952 with a Formula 3 Cooper T12-JAP but he had traded up to a Formula 2 Cooper T20-Bristol by mid-season. Second behind Mike Hawthorn’s Connaught at Turnberry and a Formule Libre victory at Snetterton’s September Aston Martin Owners’ Club meeting represented some success before he crashed the car.
When Barber made that one GP start, it could hardly have been further afield. The Fraser-Hartwell Syndicate hired a works Cooper T23-Bristol for him to drive in the South American Temporada races in January 1953. The final qualifier for the Argentine GP, some 11.4sec slower than pole winner Alberto Ascari, he drove a steady race to finish eighth, albeit seven laps behind the dominant Italian. 12th place in the Formule Libre Buenos Aires GP completed Barber’s South American experience.
There was talk of racing Scuderia Ambrosiana’s Maserati in Europe but that did not materialise. Instead, Barber drove his Cooper at Crystal Palace later that spring before turning his attention to national sports cars with a modified Cooper-Bristol.
Unhappily, Barber was unwittingly involved in a nasty accident during the British Empire Trophy on the Isle of Man in June 1953. James Nielson overturned his Frazer Nash at the difficult Cronk-y-Berry corner and the Scot was thrown into the road. Unsighted, Barber could not avoid the unfortunate Neilson who later died from the injuries he sustained.
Barber briefly reappeared in 1955 with a Jaguar C-type and he later retired from business to live on a boat in the Mediterranean.